November 26, 2006

Krauthammer's Pay Should Be Docked

An Open Letter to the Washington Post:

The editors of the Post should give Charles Krauthammer more time for fact-checking by reducing the frequency of his column for two months (and thus reducing his pay by half over that period). This would be an appropriate way to discipline Krauthammer for sloppy work, while giving other aspiring columnists an opportunity to appear in his place.

I'm referring to Krauthammer's piece of November 24, 2006 in the Washington Post., "Just an Anti-Semitic Laugh? Hardly." It's easy to produce pithy prose, but takes more time to produce well researched commentaries worthy of the Washington Post.

Krauthammer commits a factual error by selectively quoting Hugo Chavez, in a way that mischaracterizes Chavez's point, by writing:

In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez says that the "descendants of the same ones that crucified Christ" have "taken possession of all the wealth in the world."

Common mischaracterizations of Chavez's quotation in the US were exposed back in January, 2006 after bouncing around in the mainstream media echo chamber. Apparently Krauthammer didn't do his homework. So, here's the full quotation translated into english:

"The world is for all of us, then, but it so happens that a minority, the descendants of the same ones that crucified Christ, the descendants of the same ones that kicked Bolivar out of here and also crucified him in their own way over there in Santa Marta, in Colombia -- a minority has taken possession of all the wealth of the world, a minority has taken ownership of all of the gold of the planet, of the silver, of the minerals, the waters, the good lands, oil, of the wealth, and have concentrated the wealth in a few hands: Less than 10 percent of the population of the world owns more than half of the wealth of the world and … more than the population of the planet is poor, and each day there are more poor people in the whole world."

Given the proper context, it's clear that Chavez was referring the wealthy plutocracy. At the time, American Rabbi Arthur Waskow, told the Associated Press "it was the Roman Empire, and Roman soldiers, who crucified Jesus." (AP 1/5/06). Further, the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress joined the Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela in pointing out, in a letter to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, that Chavez was not referring to Jews in his speech. (AP, 1/14/06) and (Inter Press Service, 1/13/06).

According to a article, which did extensive analysis of the issue, "The Liberation theologians who run the Centre of Human Endogenous Integral Development, where President Chávez made the comments on Christmas Eve, do not blame the Jews from Christ’s death but the Roman Empire and they develop a spirituality according to which Christ showed the way for inner and political liberation in front of imperialism."

According to the article, "In Argentina and Venezuela, journals of the extreme right retake the communiqué of the Wiesenthal Centre but, due to the exact quote transmitted by Reuters, most of the newspapers abstain and the controversy declines." But the non-issue bounced around in the US mainstream media echo chamber for a long time, including again on November 24, 2006 in the Washington Post.

This is and example of why Reporters Without Boarders ranks the United States as 44th on it's annual worldwide press freedom index. (The US was ranked 17th in 2002). For those who are perplexed by this, think about how strongly profit influences the US press. The influence of profit is so strong that competition is eroding the basic journalistic requirement of fact-checking. In other words, the US press is not "free" from corrupting commercial influences.

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